Do Chickens Really Eat Poop? The Surprising Truth

Hens and Baby Chicks on Pasture (image by Dusan Kostic, Pixabay)

Article Summary

  • Chickens do indeed eat poop, a behavior known as coprophagia.
  • The cons to chickens eating poop include the potential spread of pathogens and parasites, increased risk of bacterial infections, potential ingestion of toxins, development of bad habits, and annoyance to owners.
  • It’s essential to maintain barriers and hygiene to limit risks associated with feces-eating behavior and to keep coops clean and secure from other animals.

Chickens are known for pecking around the ground for food. You may have noticed them eagerly eating something unidentifiable. So it’s natural to wonder – do chickens eat poop? Here’s a closer look at the facts.

Do Chickens Eat Poop?

Yes, chickens do sometimes eat poop. This behavior is known as coprophagia. Chickens are omnivores and will eat a wide variety of foods. Eating feces provides nutrients, minerals, and extra protein. Mother hens may also eat their chicks’ feces as part of keeping the nest clean.

Pros of Chickens Eating Poop

Although it seems distasteful to us, chickens can gain some benefits from coprophagia:

  • Additional nutrition and protein
  • Essential vitamins like B12 and K
  • Minerals like phosphorus and calcium
  • Aids digestion
  • Keeps coop clean by reducing feces buildup

So while unappetizing to humans, feces-eating does provide advantages for chickens.

Mother Hen and Chicks on a Stony Ground (image by stevepb, Pixabay)
Mother Hen and Chicks on a Stony Ground

Cons of Chickens Eating Poop

However, there are also risks to chickens eating poop:

  • Can spread pathogens and parasites
  • Increased chance of bacterial infections
  • May eat own feces and reingest toxins
  • Can develop bad habits and eat too much
  • Poop eating annoys owners

NOTE

Too much coprophagia can be detrimental to a chicken’s health. Limiting it to occasional snacking and monitoring your chickens’ behavior is best.

Do Chickens Eat Dog Poop?

Yes, chickens will eat dog feces, especially if accessible. Dog poop contains even more protein and nutrients than chicken droppings. However, dogs can transmit diseases and worms to chickens. So coops should be designed to limit dog-chicken interactions.

Do Chickens Eat Goat Poop?

Chickens will readily consume goat feces if given access. Goats passing parasites or illness to chickens is less common than with dogs. But goat poop can still harbor bacteria like E. coli. So contact should be restricted.

Do Chickens Eat Cat Poop?

Cat feces pose higher risks for chickens. Cats often carry toxoplasmosis, salmonella, tapeworms, and other pathogens transmittable to chickens. Chickens should not be allowed to free-range where cats defecate. Coops should exclude cats.

Do Chickens Eat Chicken Poop?

Eating their own manure is common among chickens. It allows them to reabsorb nutrients their digestion missed the first time. However, overconsuming their own feces can lead to toxins recycling through the body. It’s healthiest in moderation.

Do Chickens Eat Mice Poop?

Yes, chickens will readily eat mouse droppings if they come across them. Rodents carry a number of harmful diseases. So mice should be kept away from chicken coops to avoid transmission of illness through feces.

…coprophagia is normal chicken behavior with some benefits.

In moderation, coprophagia is normal chicken behavior with some benefits. However, barriers and hygiene should be maintained to limit risks. Keeping coops clean and securing them from other animals is important. Then, chickens can safely and occasionally indulge in feces-eating if they wish. Regardless, always monitor your chickens’ eating of non-food items.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do chickens eat droppings?

Yes, chickens may consume their own droppings or those of other chickens as part of their natural behavior. This behavior, known as coprophagy, is generally more common in confined or overcrowded conditions.

Is rat poop toxic to chickens?

Yes, rat droppings can pose health risks to chickens as they may carry harmful bacteria and parasites. It’s essential to keep the coop clean and free of rodents to minimize the risk of contamination.

Why do chickens eat their own poop?

Chickens may engage in coprophagy as a way to recycle nutrients or to replenish their gut microbiota. However, this behavior can also indicate nutritional deficiencies or stress in the flock.